A capsule look at today’s opening-round matchups in the Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships.
Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013
Baldwin vs. Kapolei
McKinley Student Council Gymnasium, 5 p.m.
Rankings: OIA Red third-place finisher Kapolei (20-8) is No. 5 in the Star-Advertiser Top 10. Baldwin (15-6), the runner-up in the MIL, is unranked.
On paper: The Hurricanes dominated the OIA West, then lost in the Red Conference semifinal round. They have plenty of size and athleticism in the paint, led by 6-foot-4 Christopher Dillard.
Baldwin has its share of bigs who run the high-post screen offense immaculately. Teve Eldredge (6-2) an Bradley Bowlin (6-3) man the post.
The Bears had a notable win during Punahou’s preseason tourney, knocking off Konawaena. Otherwise, they fell in close games. One was a close loss to Maryknoll (35-32) and another was a 64-43 loss to Punahou.
Kapolei hasn’t registered a big win yet, but has been close in a plethora of games against strong teams, losing to Maryknoll (60-50), ‘Iolani (60-50), Kamehameha (47-45), Coolidge (64-43), Moanalua (45-33 and 44-31). The ‘Canes edged Farrington last week 68-59, and the Govs entered the Top 10 this week, which gave Kapolei its first win of the season against a ranked team.
The skinny: Kapolei has a big-time leaper in Zachary Reeves, a 6-3 senior, and Elijah Gipson is another 6-3 rebounder. Micah Kapoi (6-4) is a wide-body who can move, but it’s Dillard’s multiple skills near the basket that make the ‘Canes dangerous.
Shooters Curtis Tavares and Joshua Wills are streaky. When Dillard operates on the perimeter, it takes him out of playmaking territory. When he’s on the high or low post, Kapolei is at its best.
Baldwin has the kind of disciplined, deliberate offense to keep this game close and limit Kapolei’s athletic plays.
Guard Kody Takushi has some impressive moments last year as a freshman.
X factor: The Bears are susceptible to a fastbreaking team (re: Punahou), but at this point in the year, coach Wayne Gushiken usually has his team playing Bears basketball. That means a lot of high screens by their posts and opportunities for backdoor passes and layups. This will be a test of patience for Kapolei’s defense.
Up next: The winner will play No. 1 seed Maryknoll.
Moanalua vs. Pearl City
McKinley Student Council Gymnasium, 7 p.m.
Rankings: Na Menehune (18-8) are No. 4 in the Top 10, up two spots after nearly upsetting Kalaheo for the OIA Red crown. Pearl City (15-8) is unranked.
On paper: Two contrasting styles from the same league in an opening-round game. Moanalua loves to play strong man-to-man defense and turn steals into scoring opportunities. Guard Kahanu Pu‘ulei-Auld had a 14-point, 12-steal game earlier in the season. He played spectacularly (20 points, six steals) in a 56-52 overtime loss to Kalaheo on Saturday.
Pearl City has probably overachieved as much as any program in the state. Coach Lionel Villarmia has preached execution from day one, and the Chargers rarely take a bad shot. The result has been a lot of games in the 30-point range, usually with PC on top.
The skinny: Though the Chargers seem like the less athletic, more patient team on most nights, they’ve stood their ground against teams like Hilo and St. Francis that have good athleticism and transition offense. Hilo won 51-50 and St. Francis won 49-47, both in preseason.
Pearl City’s best shot is at keeping Moanalua’s transition game under control, slowing the pace and playing a game in the 30s. During the Chargers’ eight-game win streak from late December to late January, they scored more than 46 points just once.
X factor: Pu‘ulei-Auld showed an ability to get his own shot off in clutch situations against Kalaheo, but if Pearl City locks down on him, Moanalua guard Ola Brown is a strong penetrator who can finish at the hoop.
Up next: No. 4 seed Konawaena.
Kamehameha-Hawaii vs. Mililani
Moanalua gym, 5 p.m.
Rankings: Neither team is ranked.
On paper: The Warriors finished BIIF play strong, upsetting Hilo in the semifinals. La‘akea Manliguis stepped up his game while Shaun Kagawa, one of the top defensive players in the state, played through injury.
Mililani isn’t as deep or as talented as it has been in previous years, but coach Ed Gonzales found a way to get his team into the state tourney.
The skinny: The Warriors have a tradition of playing strong on Oahu, which goes back to coach Dominic Pacheco’s philosophy — borrowed from previous coach Nelson Wong — of coming to Honolulu often for preseason tournaments.
If the Trojans don’t find a way to contain Manliguis and Kagawa, the Warriors should advance.
X factor: Kagawa could feast on any Mililani ballhandling issues at midcourt. He’s explosive, smart and aggressive.
Up next: The winner will play No. 2 seed Kalaheo.
Punahou vs. Farrington
Moanalua gym, 7 p.m.
Rankings: The Buffanblu (18-6) are unseeded, but ranked No. 3 in the Top 10 after a runner-up finish in the ILH. The Governors (13-12) entered the poll at No. 10 for the first time this season.
On paper: Punahou is deep at every position and coach Darren Matsuda will use as many as 10 players in the first half, fortifying fullcourt pressure and an uptempo transition game.
Farrington plays at a more even tempo, running opportunistically. The Govs put a lot of trust in their halfcourt game, pounding the ball inside to steady scorer Tyler Liana, a 6-1 senior.
The skinny: Punahou’s depth is a plus in a high-possession, fast-paced game. But in a slower pace, the team with a shorter rotation normally finds its rhythm sooner. That would be Farrington’s best scenario, having 6-3 Jacob McEnroe involved in the offense, with other scorers like Van Hugo getting open looks.
Punahou’s depth doesn’t hurt the halfcourt game as long as its best shooters get looks.
X factor: Nick Velasquez is arguably the most accurate shooter in the state, but he doesn’t get consistent looks at times. His ability to hit the open 3 plus a deceptively quick drive for layups is something Farrington doesn’t have.
Up next: No. 3 seed King Kekaulike
St. Francis vs. Waianae
Kaimuki gym, 7 p.m.
On paper: The top-seeded Saints have faced D-I powerhouses and competed well. With everyone healthy, particularly Matthew Nuumanaia, this tourney is theirs for the taking.
The Seariders had a good run in the OIA, posting a solid record in the West — against both D-I and D-II teams — and reached the final of the White Conference playoffs before losing to Kailua.
The skinny: The Seariders, when necessary, can apply tremendous defensive pressure. But normally, they sit in a 2-3 matchup zone. They extended their guards to midcourt against Kailua, but were punished by Kailua’s high-post passers for easy layups.
St. Francis is athletic and can take defenders off the dribble, so a tough zone defense might be kryptonite — if the Seariders don’t get burned on those high-post passes.
X factor: Keoni Tom-Millare is a tremendous two-sport athlete who can shoot the open 3 and attack the basket with physicality. But against a zone, it’ll be St. Francis’ team passing that will be tested.
Up next: The winner will play the HPA-Kapaa winner.
Hawaii Prep vs. Kapaa
Kaimuki gym, 5 p.m.
On paper: Jovan Crnic, Ka Makani’s 6-4 point guard, will be tough to stop for any defense regardless of classification. HPA needed just 11 points from him to topple Pahoa in the BIIF final.
The skinny: Kapaa hasn’t played off-island, and the KIF doesn’t have an impressive history in the state tourney, which is why the Warriors are unseeded despite being a league champ.
X factor: The team from Waiaka (near Kamuela) is bigger and a bit more seasoned. HPA played in the Punahou preseason tourney, where Crnic won the slam-dunk contest.
Up next: The winner plays the St. Francis-Waianae winner.
Kailua vs. Pahoa
Kalani gym, 7 p.m.
On paper: Pahoa finished second in the BIIF (D-II) after standout scorer Nick Fisher was hospitalized with dehydration. If he’s replenished and healthy today, he could make this a very tough battle for the OIA White champions.
Second-seeded Kailua, which won the 2009 D-II state title under Tim Harrison, was extremely young last season. This year, they’ve progressed thanks to a strong senior class led by guard Kekoa Ford. Kirk Ronolo Jr. is a force of nature, playing bigger than his 6-1 stature.
The skinny: Coach Walter Marciel likes to use his tall forwards to help break pressure, especially against halfcourt defenses. Mason Youart, a 6-3 senior, was a major key to the OIA White title win over Waianae.
X factor: Fisher has been tremendous once again, carrying a big load of scoring duties for the Daggers. Kailua likes to play man-to-man defense, which means Fisher will see a battery of long, quick defenders all night.
Up next: The winner goes up against the Pahoa-University victor.
Seabury Hall vs. University
Kalani gym, 5 p.m.
On paper: The Spartans have Caleb Palmer, a 6-3 senior, and 6-2 Cameron King patrolling the paint. The Spartans, seeded third, are the MIL D-II champions.
University upset Damien in the ILH playoffs to finish second (to St. Francis) and earn a state berth.
The skinny: The Spartans have always been tough in D-II, stunning St. Francis in last year’s state tourney.
University has remarkable composure and chemistry, a team that isn’t particularly tall, but very cohesive under veteran coach Walt Quitan. Point guard Anthony Canencia may be the best penetrating playmaker in the tourney on either side, D-I or D-II. Ryan Kaleikini was taken out of the game against Damien by an air-tight box-and-one, but the Junior Rainbows rallied for the win anyway.
X factor: It’s unlikely Seabury will replicate Damien’s defense and box Kaleikini. Instead, their height will be a factor. University has Shaun Mahiko, a 6-2 sophomore, who had a solid night against Damien in a limited role.
Up next: The winner plays the Kailua-Pahoa winner.
Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser